What the ADP is Doing
On April 4, 2023, ADP Project Coordinator Tabitha Kenlon published the following information on the ADP Discussion List in response to a series of user posts regarding the lack of audio description for, in particular, older titles, and the question of live voice for AD versus a synthesized one.
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The American Council of the Blind and the Audio Description Project have multiple initiatives that advocate for and provide education about audio description (AD). Below is, first, a summary of a few of our efforts to improve the quality and availability of AD, and second, some ways you can get involved.
What We're Doing
- The ADP has multiple subcommittees dedicated to advocating for audio description. The Media committee has formed strong relationships with many major film and tv studios and streaming services. The Performing Arts, Museums, and Parks committee is working, individually and collectively, with theatres, museums, and the National Park Service to ensure the provision of AD in entertainment and educational settings.
- The ADP Awards, which will be announced at the ACB Convention in July, and the AD Gala Awards, taking place in November, are ways ACB recognizes people and organizations demonstrating leadership and a solid commitment to providing audio description.
- Members of the ADP Steering committee have been working to design a certification program for creators of audio description.
- The Audio Description Institute, taught by Dr. Joel Snyder with a faculty of blind and sighted AD professionals, has provided training to hundreds of people interested in writing effective audio description.
- The ADP is planning a panel discussion of AD professionals who are blind or have low vision; they'll share their experience training and working in the field, and hopefully give some advice for aspiring AD writers, voice talent, and audio editors and engineers.
- The ADP website provides a wealth of resources, such as a catalog of films, series, and daily tv listings of shows with AD (and where to find them), lists of theatres that provide audio described performances, a database of people and companies that create audio description, training materials, and the history of AD. In the coming months, we'll be featuring success stories – profiles of the people and organizations who are making AD happen, perhaps in your hometown.
- One of ACB's legislative imperatives is the Website and Software Applications Accessibility Act. Access to websites, applications, and online services impacts most aspects of everyday life. However, the Department of Justice has not finalized enforcement standards that clearly state websites, applications, and online services must be accessible to people who are blind, low vision, or Deafblind. As a result, millions of Americans face countless barriers when accessing online workplace portals, educational platforms, healthcare and public health information, transportation services, shopping, and entertainment. The Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act would clarify that it is unlawful to own, operate, or maintain inaccessible websites and applications that exclude or otherwise discriminate against people with disabilities. It would establish a clear, enforceable accessibility standard and a technical assistance center and advisory committee to provide advice and guidance on accessible websites and applications. It would also authorize a study on how to best address emerging technologies. Senate offices wishing to support this bill should contact Stephanie Deluca in Senator Duckworth's office, and House offices should contact Katie Teleky in Representative Sarbanes' office.
- Another imperative is the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act – The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) guaranteed access for people with disabilities to advanced communications services, telecommunications hardware and software, accessible video displays and user interfaces, and digital apparatuses; it also required the delivery of audio-described content. For more than ten years, ACB and its members have worked to implement and enforce the CVAA, and in several key aspects, we have reached the limits of what the CVAA is able to enforce. It is time for Congress to update the accessible video and communications requirements of the CVAA. In the 117th Congress, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA-18) introduced the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility (CVTA) Act of 2022. The CVTA reaffirms our nation's commitment to accessible communications and video technologies for people who are blind, low vision, or Deafblind. Once passed, this legislation will update existing requirements for accessible media, video user interfaces, and video conferencing services.
- ACB will be filing comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposal to expand audio description mandates in broadcast markets across the US. In general, ACB is supportive of the expansion, though we believe it should be done more quickly than 10 DMAs per year. Currently, 90 designated market areas (DMA) are required to pass through AD, increasing to the top 100 DMAs in 2024; it will take more than ten years to cover all 210 DMAs. The technology to pass through AD is the same that broadcasters are already required to have in place for the pass-through of accessible emergency alerts. Therefore, unless individual broadcasters have requested and received a waiver from the accessible emergency alert requirements, this capability already exists today. As the technology is in place, broadcasters should put it to good use.
What You Can Do
- There were some great ideas on this list: leave reviews of film and series and include your thoughts about the quality of the AD if was provided, or that you want it if it wasn't.
- If a service is supposed to be providing audio description but isn't, complain to the station or channel directly and file a complaint with the FCC's Disability Rights Office. You can call 202-418-2517 or email DRO@fcc.gov.
- Again, if you're writing reviews of a film or series, make the quality of the AD part of your review. If you're active on social media, tag studios when you're praising AD or pointing out its absence.
- Check out the training and education page on the ADP website. Participate in the next Audio Description Institute, coming up in August.
- Visit the ADP website regularly for updates on where you can find audio description, stories about AD done well, and fun things, like themed round-ups of movies with AD. We're always working to keep the website updated and accessible; you can help us by completing a survey about the ADP site and social media.
- Attend the ADP Conference, which will be held virtually June 22–24, 2023. We'll have panel discussions of a certification program for audio description creation, the CVTA, academic research, international AD, AD across the arts, and AD for kids. We'll also have representatives from major streaming services to talk about their engagement with audio description.
- Contact your senators and congressional representatives to let them know you care about these issues and would like them to support the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act and the CVTA.
- For the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act, Senate offices wishing to support this bill should contact Stephanie Deluca in Senator Duckworth's office, and House offices should contact Katie Teleky in Representative Sarbanes' office.
- For the CVTA, offices interested in supporting the CVTA should contact Ireland Lesley in Senator Markey's office and Stuart Styron in Representative Eshoo's office.
- File a comment with the FCC on the proposed DMA expansion. The FCC states, "Interested parties may file comments by accessing the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. All filings must reference MB Docket No. 11-43. People with disabilities who need assistance to file comments online may request assistance by email to FCC504@fcc.gov." The deadline is April 28, 2023.
The ADP is also working to assemble an AD Advocacy Toolkit that will provide template letters, brief AD explainers, and success stories to support you as you advocate for audio description at home, in the movie theater, at live theatrical events, at museums, and in school. We'll let you know when it's all set and ready to go.
Thanks again for your enthusiasm. Stay in touch, and keep advocating!
Tabitha Kenlon, PhD
Audio Description Project Coordinator
American Council of the Blind
1703 N Beauregard Street, Suite 420
Alexandria, VA 22311